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Myth or Fact - Can Iridology Detect Systemic Disease?

By 2 4

Wonder what this eye map might reveal?

Eye of author (RoseWrites on InfoBarrel) beside Iridology Wallet Card
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved

Searched "Iridology"

Found it's still around

For over 7 years that I was an assistant and technician in ophthalmology, I had never heard of anything as odd as iridology.[1]

Iridology is based on the belief that certain body systems and organs correlate to specific areas on the iris (the colored part of our eye). Somehow, by taking photos of the iris, so-called iridologists can detect abnormalities in the body - including past (and future) medical problems.[2] 

When I Googled iridology, I was disappointed to find an article[3] published about it in one of my favorite magazines and that the services of "iridologists" were being offered in a couple of Canadian cities where I had worked in ophthalmology.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
Credit: dobak on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

How iridology became a pseudoscience

An owl and a man who both suffered broken legs

Apparently, the concept of iridology was introduced in 1665 by Philippus Meyeus (Philip Meyen von Coburg) in a published work titled Chiromatica Medica (which was reprinted in 1670 and 1691).[2]

In the 19th-century, a Hungarian physician named Ignaz von Peczely purportedly saw streaks in the eyes of a male patient with a broken leg. And the funny thing is, he saw [similar] streaks in the eye of an owl (many years earlier) who had also suffered a broken leg.[2] 

Somehow, he made the connection that areas in the body that are damaged or not functioning properly are revealed on the iris of the eye.

It wasn't until the 1950s that an American chiropractor, Bernard Jensen, began teaching his own method in the US. For $150, naturopath Frank Navratil will view a digital image of your eyes and "diagnose" you.[4]

Who is qualified?

Anyone. In Canada and the United States, iridology is not licensed nor regulated by any governmental agency or body.[2] Numerous "organizations" offer certification courses for a price.

Iris Analysis by Dr. Morse (on ?)

I applied his analysis to my own eye

From Dr. Morse's video, here are my notes about various color changes and patterns seen on this person's right iris:

Whitish areas: "subcutaneous," "backed up," "lymph nodes," or "congestion"

Black areas: "deterioration" or a "not real happy organ" (as it corresponds to the chart)

Whitish ring: "malabsorption" ring
 
Inner region near pupil: "stomach" ring showing "acidosis"
 
Orange flecks: "hints of sulfur" or "some drug deposit like iodine"
 
Another article[5] I read online provided the following guide. The person who authored the page claims to have been an iridologist for about 15 years:
 
White dots or lines "can be inflammation"
Black gouges "can indicate dying tissue or scarring"
Rings near iris edge "can mean high stress levels"
Whitish blue arcs on outside of iris "can be a slow metabolism"

What does my right eye tell an iridologist?

Right eye of author (RoseWrites on InfoBarrel) beside computer generated iridology map
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved

Applying these two iridologists' guidelines

I decided to interpret just 3 areas of my right eye

1) I have a darkened "gouge" or black area in my brain. Which means: "deterioration" or "not a real happy organ" or "dying tissue" or "scarring."

Hmmm, I've never suffered a head injury or loss of consciousness. If a section of my brain is dying, I'm not sure I could write this page. But if it means "not a real happy organ" - well, sure, I'm not happy all the time.

2) Whitish areas correspond to my upper and mid-back area where (apparently) I could be suffering: "subcutaneous," [subcutaneous means under the skin], "backed up," "lymph nodes," "congestion," or "inflammation."

Well, I've never had a congested upper and mid-back region. Inflammation? Well, only when someone has been beating me with a baseball bat in that area. I never knew my back could get "congested." "Lymph nodes?" Gee, my biology professor must have got that map of the lymphatic system all wrong (and the text books too).

3) Black gouges in some area "kind of" related to my upper neck and some "uncharted" area which means a "deterioration, not a happy organ, dying tissue or scarring."

Well, I guess my upper neck and some region that doesn't matter is "not real happy, dying, or deteriorating." I've never sustained an injury there, so I know there's no scarring.

Perhaps another iridologist is worth a try

She has a PhD in Natural Medicine and is an emotional and physical iridologist (the patient is not me):

Gee, I had no idea that my right eye

Could tell me about my male relationships . . hmmm

Well, this is getting really interesting now folks. 

Wait, the right eye also tells Dr. Gellman "what's going on with her career."

Then, she tells the patient to open her eye really big and then the doctor let's out a dispirited sigh.

Damn, at the 1:03 min point, Dr. Gellman says, "Ohhh, I'm sorry to say there appears to have been a significant amount of losses and disappointments in those areas."

Patient nods and says: "It's true."

Dr. Gellman adds, "Both personally, romantically, and professionally." Wait, isn't that three things?

Well, who the h*ll hasn't?

Then she inquires whether the patient "goes through periods where she feels very tired."

Wow, yeah, I do (after being awake everyday for about 18 - 20 hours).

Oh, I need help bad. How much do I pay for a 45 minute consultation?

Nuts? Psst, did someone say nuts?

Funny Lass
Credit: Tomi Tapio K on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Are there good reasons to examine the iris?

Yes, and I include some (not all) next.

As I mentioned, I worked under the supervision of several ophthalmologists for many years. The reason I would shine a penlight into a patient's eyes was to perform a rudimentary pupillary assessment.[6]

Under normal circumstances, the pupils are equal in size, round, reactive to light and accommodation. This is commonly charted as PERRLA.[7]

On occasion, I would note certain things that [appeared to me] as abnormal. Examples included: a relative afferent pupillary defect[8] (RAPD), dark copper-colored rings (Kayser–Fleischer[9] rings), and NVI[10] (Neovascularization of the Iris). There are many others and some are crucial to note (especially prior to administering certain eye drops).

An ophthalmologist would take a look at what I spotted to confirm or disregard what I observed. Sometimes dark areas or flecks would be harmless nevi (which are always benign and of no real consequence for the eye or the health of the patient).[11]

This IS important for doctors to check

The swinging-flashlight test:

Kayser-Fleischer ring

If not caught and treated early, Wilson's disease is fatal

Kayser-Fleischer ring
Credit: Herbert L. Fred, MD, Hendrik A. van Dijk / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

NVI is advanced in this eye (unfortunately)

Eye care professionals can detect it much sooner:

Hope you feel a little wiser about iridology

Thank you for reading

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Credit: Jean (Just chaos on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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Comments

Apr 21, 2014 5:20pm
RoseWrites
Addendum: When I volunteered for the computer generated image (photo with numbered areas 1 - 3), purportedly the "whitish blue arcs" meant I had a "slow metabolism" (according to iridology software).

Although difficult to see from the photo of my right eye on this page, I actually have corneal arcus. Genetic testing (over 10 years ago) revealed I have FH (familial hypercholesterolemia). An iridologist missed it entirely (although optometrists and ophthalmologists have spotted it immediately).
Jun 10, 2014 5:44pm
TanoCalvenoa
This was amusing to read through. Iridology reminds me very much of fortune telling, like with someone waving their hand over a crystal ball or reading your palm. Nice to see someone with knowledge of ophthalmology give it a proper critique.
Jun 10, 2014 11:21pm
RoseWrites
Dear TanoCalvenoa,
You are exactly right - it's as much of a guess as fortune telling. I'm shocked that people have paid $150 for these "consultations." Not only is it quackery, but it could potentially be dangerous (by missing real medical conditions). Thanks so much for dropping by.
Take good care,
Rose
Jun 10, 2014 11:21pm
RoseWrites
This comment has been deleted.
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Bibliography

  1. "Iridology." The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com. 21/01/2014. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  2. "Iridology." Wikipedia. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  3. Rachelle Wintzen "Five things iridology can tell you about your health." Chatelaine. 10/03/2014. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  4. Steven Novella "Iridology Update." NeuroLogica Blog. 09/08/2012. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  5. SunnyBecca "How to Use an Iridology Eye Chart!." Squidoo. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  6. Phil Jevon, PGCE, BSc, RGN "Neurological assessment Part 2 - Pupillary assessment." NursingTimes.net. 15/07/2008. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  7. Robert H. Spector "The Pupils | Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations (3rd edition)." National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  8. David C Broadway "How to test for a relative afferent pupillary defect (RAPD)." National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  9. Emily S. Birkholz, MD, Thomas A. Oetting, MS, MD "KaKayser-Fleischer Ring: A Systems Based Review of the Ophthalmologist's Role in the Diagnosis of Wilson's Disease." EyeRounds.org - Ophthalmology | The University of Iowa. 28/07/2009. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  10. Jose Fernandez-Vigo, Juan Castro and Ana Macarro "Diabetic iris neovascularization | Natural history and treatment." Wiley Online Library. 27/05/2009. 19/04/2014 <Web >
  11. David H. Abramson, MD, Amy C. Schefler, BA, Ira J. Dunkel, MD, Beryl McCormick, MD, and Kip W. Dolphin, MD. "Adult Ophthalmic Oncology: Ocular Diseases | Section on Iris Nevi." National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 19/04/2014 <Web >

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